The Healthy Cuisine of the Middle East

Published October 25, 2017

I know that I am truly fortunate to have been brought up on the healthy cuisine of the Middle East! The Syrian diet is so rich in whole grains, fresh vegetables, homemade yogurt and cheeses, lean meats, dried fruits and nuts with seemingly elaborate desserts. Unlike the processed foods of today, we enjoyed everything in moderation and our grandparents lived into their late 80’s and 90’s as a rule.

These foods may be a mystery to some people, thinking them exotic and needing special ingredients or being too time-consuming. I kept this in mind as I wrote Sitto’s Kitchen cookbook. I carefully followed my grandmother’s methods, but as time passed, I knew that today’s cooks or would-be cooks, wanted to work faster and easier. Although I always preserved my ancestor’s methods of preparing these traditional dishes, I included those modern methods and tips alongside the original to update them.

A good example of this would be my recipes for Tamarind Syrup, a condiment unique to #Aleppo. This sweet/tart syrup adds just the right note to many of the sauces and dips in our cuisine. The original method of making this syrup, using fresh Tamarind Pods begins on page 9. Tamar Hindi, which is #Arabic for Tamarind, is surely the result of Aleppo’s location on the trade routes of long ago. Evidence of that route is the use of Tamarind in many of the dishes of Pakistan, India and Thailand. And in keeping with my goal of presenting more and more updated versions for today, I’ve included five recipes for this exotic syrup, all with differing methods, with the last being my own modern preparation of it. After tasting this condiment’s rich changes to these seemingly simple dishes, it will convince you of its importance in our wonderfully healthy cuisine of Aleppo, Syria!